The Webcomic Watchman

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Review #39: Welcome to Purgatory, Such a Lovely Place...

[Insert your own NSFW joke here]

"You can checkout any time you like/
But you can never leave."

Title: Purgatory Tower
Artist: Sarah Hebblethwaite (a.k.a. "silentkitty")
Genre: Fantasy/Anthromorphic
Updates: Unknown

[UPDATE: Narrative replaced with something funnier and trippier, and title of post changed slightly. Also, a couple sentences added to the actual review.]

Enjoy your stay, the receptionist said. You’ll love it here, the concierge said. Wish he’d told me about the jungle I’d have to wade through to find the exit. Maybe I should’ve paid more attention when I checked into this place. I had no idea there would be so much damned vegetation in Purgatory.

All I wanted was to unpack my bags and find a bar to drown my sorrows in before heading off to diagnose some more patients. Bunch of whiners: “Oh, look at me, I’ve been shot in the arm and I need a doctor to pull the bullet out! Oh, I’m suing Dr. Haus because he left a pair of pliers in my stomach and sold me painkillers that didn’t work! Oh, I need Big Government to come in and help me pay these astronomically-high medical bills because the insurance company dropped me on a whim!” Whatever happened to pulling yourself up by the bootstraps? What happened to survival of the fittest, or evolution?

In the distance, I could swear I heard my receptionist boy calling out for me again. “You’re Robo-tripping, aren’t you?” He’s saying. How can he find me in this jungle? “You’re not in a jungle! You’re in Vegas!” He shouts back. Then what are those monsters above me? Oh God, that monster is swooping down at me, a green freak of nature with bird wings. “Cirque du Soleil” he shouts back, “And you’re walking through the middle of the second act!”

How could this be a circus? I didn’t see any clowns or abused elephants taking center stage. Suddenly, the music stops and several creatures are looking at me. Then the Receptionist boy is dragging me out a door, muttering, “When we get back home, I’m locking away all your Hunter S. Thompson books.” But I still see the face of a catgirl staring back at my limp form, a catgirl with three eyes. Oh God, what did I get myself into?

What's this? I'm able to publish a review in less than 21 days again? Someone break out the mother fucking champagne! [Ed. Note: Dr. Haus does not endorse fucking mothers with champagne bottles.] Onto the comic itself though, in my super-super-serious voice:

The story's premise sounds a bit familiar to anyone who's read Battle Royale or anything related to Roman Gladiators: Several folks serving a life sentence in an unnamed place are given the chance to race to the top of a tower known as Purgatory. Anyone who reaches the summit alive gets a full pardon for their crimes. Aside from that, there are no rules about how to get there.

Gotta admit, it's a fine example of Darwinism with several anthromorphic prisoners. At least they're polite enough to listen to the rules before they start killing each other. But several pages of simply watching these folks fight each other to the death wouldn't hold my interest for long.

Instead, the story focuses on a few characters in particular: On one side, we have Aisha, the squirrel-girl thief with a tail about as large as her body. On the other end, the story follows Cai, a cat-girl with a third eye infused in her right shoulder, and a talking tree-thing with a human face named Morgensen. Why it is that every character seems to have become some human-animal hybrid is not quite known, although according to this strip, it seems to be the equivalent of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony in their still-unnamed world.

If I have any complaints about the story so far, the setup for the main characters running into each other seems kinda awkward. The meeting borders on Cai/Morgensen somehow acquiring and using the materials for a large explosive right at the moment when the squirrel is about to get cut by a magic sword. Not to mention that all the characters caught in the aforementioned explosion miraculously survive. The explosion is never mentioned again, though one assumes that if Cai knew how to make explosives, she could make one again when fighting this big blue creature rather than just fighting it hand to hand. A small problem, yes, but one that nags me in an otherwise plausible narrative.

There isn't much else to say about this thing without spoiling what exists of the story, considering only around 80 pages have been completed ("only" 80, I know). The artwork is quite exceptional, just one beat below the CG goodness of a finished The Prime of Ambition strip. Aside from the occasional melted toes and one inexplicably green mushroom cloud (from the aforementioned explosive scene), the action scenes are pretty well drawn and the characters show a decent range of emotions.

Of course, if there's one main thing I can credit this comic for, I was genuinely willing to keep reading the next page, and not just for the sake of reviewing it. Take a look, and maybe you'll enjoy it too.


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